by Penny M. Hagerman
Trading in your used car for a greener, more efficient one? Before you push, pull or putter your used ride onto a dealer’s lot near you, consider these top eight safety picks to help lower the cost of your auto insurance.Buying one with as many features as you can afford will keep you safer in your ride—and earn you money-saving insurance discounts!#1: Electronic Stability Control (ESC)Stability control systems monitor your intended path and the direction your car is going in. If the two begin to diverge, the system either activates your brakes to slow the car down and get you back on track or reduces your engine power to restore control and keep your automobile stable.#2: Side-Impact Air BagsUnlike frontal collisions, side impact accidents can be particularly deadly because there’s nothing but the thickness of the door to absorb the force of the crash. Side-impact air bags help absorb the impact of the blow and protect you and your passengers from injury, especially to the middle and lower body.#3: Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)Anti-lock brakes kick in when tires lose traction and wheels lock up, especially on wet or slick roads. By pumping the brakes automatically and rapidly, the ABS system helps you stop more quickly and regain control of your steering. A pronounced vibrating felt under the braking foot, and simultaneous but temporary loss of pedal control, signals anti-lock brakes at work.#4: Navigation SystemOne of the latest electronic systems to be installed in cars, navigation systems allow you to map and find your destination quickly and easily while driving. They can be programmed to give you point-to-point driving directions, as well as pinpoint destinations like restaurants, gas stations, banks, hotels and other businesses. According to Edmunds.com, most new navigation systems now use DVD-ROM technology to compactly store mapping directions.#5: Rear Parking SensorsWhen you get too close to an object while backing up your car in a tight space, rear parking sensors sound an audible alarm to let you know you’re in danger of hitting something. Sometimes called Park Assist, this technology keeps you from hitting both objects and people in areas where your range of sight is limited.#6: Side-Curtain Air BagsAlso called “head curtain air bags,” these provide buffers between the vehicle and its occupants’ head and torso. Located in a front-side position, they drop down from the ceiling when an accident occurs, often extending from front to rear seat and protecting drivers and passengers from injury.#7: Rear Cargo NettingVehicles such as SUVs or hatchbacks that contain open rear cargo areas can benefit from cargo netting or a closed cargo cage. Since objects placed in this area aren’t typically fastened down and move around freely as you drive, heavy objects such as luggage or sporting equipment pose a danger to everyone in the car if you have to stop suddenly or you have an accident. Netting limits these objects’ movement, protecting everyone from injury.#8: Quality TiresHaving a good set of tires on your car is critical to automotive safety. Where old or worn tires may cause you to lose traction, go off the road and lose control of the vehicle, quality tires with plenty of tread help maintain control of the car and allow you to respond quickly to avoid an accident or miss something in the road. Keep your wheels aligned, check your tire pressure once a month, and replace worn tires with new ones as directed by your mechanic, and you’ll lessen the likelihood of accident.Savings: the PayoffStudies show that cars stocked with safety equipment like those listed above get involved in fewer accidents, on average. That means less risk for your insurance company—and lower premiums for you.So if you’re pinching pennies and you’re tempted to forego safety equipment in favor of something more ill equipped, you might want to rethink your strategy—and talk to your insurance agent. Though it may cost you a little more up front, purchasing a safer ride is always better in the long run, and the discounts you’ll earn are well worth the tradeoff.